DEAR ABBY: Please allow me to offer my support to "Wants What's Best for Mom in New York," the woman whose mom is in her 70s. The mother's friends think she is "too young to be in assisted living" despite the memory problems she's having.
As you suggested, talking to them is a great idea. But she should emphasize to these friends that what she's doing is in her mother's best interests. It's relieving her of the burden of cooking, cleaning and paying bills. Relief from these burdens will cause her to relax and think more clearly -- and her socialization will increase. Her nutrition will improve, and she will receive the proper dosage of her prescribed medications -- at the right times. On some level, her mother knows her memory is slipping. Anxiety over that, as well as her responsibilities, causes more anxiety and more memory loss.
I have worked in assisted living for five years. Without feeling guilty, I placed my 79-year-old mother, who had similar problems, in the facility. The stimulation and support of others not only added to her life, but helped her feel she had a better life. She was free of her prior stresses. I have seen hundreds of cases of improved lifestyle, less depression, and more happiness and fulfillment in assisted living. That daughter needs to know she's doing the right thing. -- MICHELE B., ROSELAND, N.J.
DEAR MICHELE: Thank you for the helpful input, and for sharing your personal experience. Now read on for more:
DEAR ABBY: Please tell "Wants What's Best" to do what she needs to do for her mother. Get the assistance she needs and ignore the "well-meaning people." But first of all, take her car keys away from her. If she gets lost and doesn't remember what she's doing in the car, she can no longer drive safely on the roads.
My 18-year-old daughter, Lynae, was killed by a woman with dementia almost five years ago, because no one wanted to interfere with her driving privileges. Lynae was two days away from starting college. She had her whole life ahead of her. But because no one had the guts to take a firm stand, my daughter never had a chance.
Abby, please urge family members to do the "right" thing when they realize that elderly members of their families need help. -- MOTHER OF AN ANGEL IN MINNESOTA
DEAR MOTHER: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the tragic loss of your daughter. Your letter carries a strong message, and I'm pleased to share it. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Since I'm dealing with similar issues as that daughter in New York, it occurs to me that she might not know that in many places -- and with many insurance programs supplementing Medicare -- various services are available that can help to maintain individuals in their homes. It might be less expensive and more satisfying for all concerned to try this alternative before going to assisted living.
In my case, the insurance company provides a care provider who helps with housekeeping, meal preparation, giving meds, bathing, and trips to the doctor, pharmacy, grocery shopping, etc. And all for a minimal co-pay for any visit to provide the needed care. -- DIANE IN INDIO, CALIF.
DEAR DIANE: For some people -- not all -- that's a viable alternative. Families who are interested should check with the local office on aging, local senior centers, the Visiting Nurse Association, their Medicare supplemental insurance provider, Meals on Wheels, and local transportation companies to inquire if they provide free or low-cost transportation for seniors to get to doctors, pharmacies, markets, etc.